The government issues a response to Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel recommendations (following abuse at Hesley services in Doncaster)

On 18th December 2023, the government responded to recommendations made by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review in April 2023.

This week (18th December 2023) the government published a response to recommendations made by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel.

The panel published two reports about residential care settings run by the Hesley Group in the Doncaster area, focussing on the experiences of 108 children and young adults with learning disabilities and complex needs between 1st January 2018 and March 21st 2021.

The reports record that the children:

  • Experienced significant neglect, abuse and harm
  • Did not have local support and services options to meet their needs
  • Had their individual cultural needs and dignity violated
  • Were failed by the multiple systems and safeguards that should have been in place to protect them

The first report highlighted that the children’s vulnerability was increased by the distance that they were placed from home, and that inadequate leadership in the Hesley services resulted in a culture of poor practice and misconduct by care staff.

The second report builds on the previous findings and sets out a shared vision for the education, health and care of children with disabilities and complex needs. The second report also recognised the inadequacy of local support for children with learning disabilities and complex needs, noting that some of the children at the Hesley residential setting could have had their needs met in their local community. Instead, they were placed in institutions away from loving families resulting in additional trauma, harm and institutionalisation.

A range of recommendations were suggested by the Panel to improve services and support, and the Government is required to respond.

The Government response published yesterday announced 5 priorities:

  • Keeping disabled children in residential settings safe now (relevant agencies have been asked to assure themselves that they are meeting their duties)
  • Safeguarding reforms (change the way children are safeguarded)
  • Reforming support in the community (providing the right support, in the right place, at the right time and reduce institutionalisation of disabled children)
  • Commission places to live for disabled children (reform the system so that disabled children who do need residential or foster homes have a stable, loving home that is safe and close to their friends and family. Currently, too many children are separated from their family and friends by long distances.
  • A stable, well-trained workforce (supporting those working with disabled children and their families at home, in schools and in residential and foster homes with support and training)

The government has also written four open letters to stakeholders, and has stated that progress will be reviewed in six months.

CBF statement

Our CEO, Viv Cooper, says:

“The experiences of the children placed in the Hesley services were shocking and completely unacceptable. They suffered (and continue to live with) the significant consequences of multiple failures in a system which should have kept them safe from harm. Given the seriousness, we and others expected this to result in investment in a new programme of work with ring-fenced funding to drive improvements in local provision and support and establish effective safeguarding systems. It is extremely disappointing that most of the government response consists of re-stating previous announcements and existing duties, when we know these did not provide what was needed. We lack confidence that this approach will deliver the systemic change that is needed, especially as no new funding has been committed to address the failings identified. As it stands, families experience a lack of support until they reach crisis point, and are then presented with distant 52-week placements as the ‘only option’ to meet their child’s needs. Without targeted and monitored investment in local support and services, disabled children will continue to be placed in expensive institutional services far away from their families where they are at increased risk of abuse.

The Child Safeguarding Practice Review panel identified major systemic failures at every level. We have serious concerns that children with complex needs will continue to be failed as there is no clear plan to address these failures, monitor progress or hold stakeholders to account.”

Read the Government response here

Read the Phase 2 report by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel here 


Read the Challenging Behaviour Foundation’s statement about the phase 1 report here and the phase 2 report here.

If you are concerned about your family member please click here.


Family Support Service

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this statement, you can call the Family Support Service on 0300 666 0126

Or email us at

We are open at the following times:

Monday – Thursday: 9am – 5pm
Friday: 9am – 3pm

We offer information about challenging behaviour to anyone who provides support to a child, young person or adult with a severe learning disability. We can also signpost you to other specialist organisations and sources of information.

Please note we are a small support service so you may not be able to get support straight away. We will support families with urgent concerns as a priority.

Professionals are also welcome to contact the CBF.